A Week Without Plastic: Is it possible?

Seed/Scienceblog alum Katherine Sharpe (she of austere head office fame), recently conducted a fascinating experiment in deprivation. There's Lent, of course, the standard bearer of voluntary deprivation. And there are those who give up caffeine, or television, or the internet, or long lists, or sarcasm for some time. But this is the first I've seen of someone trying to live in our culture, our 21st century hyper-consumer, radically plasticized culture, without plastics. But Katherine tried it. Plus, she began it with a nod to Chris Jordan's compelling art on our plasticized world (about which you can also find here and here and, of course, at Jordan's own website).

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Her write-ups of the experiment are not only engaging in their account of the details of the week, but engaging as works of non-fiction. It's a novella waiting to be published. Another appealing aspect is that her posts seem to carry the promise of blogging that everyone lauded several years ago -- that it could be a conversation on the web. It's turned out that that doesn't mostly happen, this fostering of civic debate, but Katherine's no-plastics experiment seemed to do so. Her commenters offer advice and observations that are also worth reading.

The following posts were published at the ReadyMade blog, where it appears other voluntary deprivation experiments are also underway (like the week without processed food). And you know, I should change that language, because although I started with the "deprivation" trope as a lead-in I think one of the outcomes of the experiment was to see what we gain, not what we lose. Katherine seems to be looking to find ways of better living, of how we might add to our everyday worlds by reconfiguring how we move about in them.

This is the set-up to the experiment, the background: start here.

This is the first post about it: "Easing into it."

Here is the second report: Day 2.

Here is the third: Day 3.

And this is her last: the wrap-up.

It was an excellent idea, a well executed experiment, a skillfully written report, and a bracing read. This should get picked up by the broader press and, perhaps, reprinted in something like The Atlantic or maybe excerpted as a Harper's reading.

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I like how the re-usable plastics seem exceptable during the "easing into it" phase. These are the good plastics that help our lives and are not so pollutant.

There's a blogger named EnviroWoman, who has been living practically plastic free for three years. In her first year, she encountered plastic in some very very strange places...

They could get rid of it in much of the food industry for all I care, especially with beverages. Much prefer glass there. When a beer company announced a trail of plastic bottle back in 2000 I thought the End Times had arrived. ;-)

By Quiet Desperation (not verified) on 13 Aug 2009 #permalink

Had a couple in Christchurch, New Zealand who went rubbish-free for a year (they decided to carry on after the year was up). However recyclables were allowed. I'm trying to use less plastic bags and plastic packaging myself, because those are pretty un-recyclable, but it's really hard. What do you use as rubbish bags when you can't use plastic? How do you compost without a garden/lawn and when the property manager won't let you? Got to get out of this flat. :(

By katherine (not verified) on 13 Aug 2009 #permalink